Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday August 10, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 31                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Unfortunately, we start this installment of “RTT” on a serious note, as a call from our friend NEAR Hall of Famer Billy Harman reveals that retired Modified Great “Daring Dick” Caso has been hospitalized at Hartford Hospital in critical condition, the result of a recent traffic accident. Our wishes for a speedy & complete recovery are sent out to Dick, his family and many friends. This week we present another wide selection of short-track warriors via our pals Rusty Sage, Dave Chapman, Steve Kennedy, and R.A. Silvia. Not following any particular formula, it’s a pretty-varied group of accomplished racers. Enjoy our latest little foray into the “old daze” but above-all, have a great week!  Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com       

Yet-Another (Very) Varied Assortment…..

One from Thompson; “Daring Dick” Caso may have never won any popularity contests with track officials, but he had more than his fair-share of fans among the grandstand patrons. A nickname well-earned, his driving style was of the “no-holds-barred” variety and when in his prime, a Caso-drive to the front was itself worth the price of an admission ticket. In terms of finance, he was a low-bucker that got the ultimate out of equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. A big-winner in the early 70s, he’d often take-off to run the dirt tracks of PA with this Corvair or it’s stable-mate, a Coupe-bodied creation. Nicknames were big during Caso’s tenure, as he was also christened “The Cromwell Comet” by the late, great John Small, one of the grandest announcers in Waterford Speedbowl history. The moniker was of course, a nod to Dick’s hometown. As stated earlier, Dick, now 72, was recently involved in a traffic accident and is presently in critical condition at Hartford Hospital. Our concern is sent-out to Dick and his family & many friends in wishing him a speedy & complete recovery. (Steve Kennedy Collection)           

Modern-day fans know the now-retired Jerry Pearl as a multi-time Connecticut SK Modified Champion. Back when this shot was taken in we believe 1974 or 75, he was wheeling this coupe at places like Waterford, Stafford, & Thompson where this shot was captured. Following a short break in the early-70’s, he successfully campaigned a Daredevil entry at the shoreline oval in a car vacated by Bill ‘The Southern Gent” Grainger (a mammoth 57’ Plymouth no-less, with a giant Rebel flag across the roof). From there, it was back to the open-wheel wars, and the rest is history. Jerry is the dad of popular Jeff Pearl, the 1998 Speedbowl SK champion. (Rusty Sage Collection).   

Last week we featured a Plainville Stadium shot of our pal Don Moon from really-early in his career. This one sees him at the late & much-missed Riverside Park speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts a bit-later. He competed at a number of Eastern modified haunts during his long career, compiling a stellar record of triumphs. As a member of the “closed-club” Southern New York Racing Association at Danbury Fair Racearena, he notched two victories in 1966, including the Conrad Memorial Trophy event. An admired car-builder, he’s also credited with helping jump-start the career of a young Reggie Ruggiero. With a broken-arm putting a premature end to his Stadium’ season, Moon placed “The Reg” behind the wheel of his potent #9 in 1975 resulting in ten feature wins for the young upstart. (Steve Kennedy Collection).                      

Another 1970s image from Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway, this one sees New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Bob Potter on pit lane awaiting some practice time on the track affectionately-known as the “Big T.” An ultra-popular racer, the Taftville, CT. native started his career at Waterford in 1962 behind the controls of a Bomber class entry. Never officially retired, he went-on to win multiple Modified championships at Waterford (where alone, he claimed close to 100 career victories), Thompson, and Stafford. (Steve Kennedy Collection).                         

We had to consult the guy who captured this Waterford Speedbowl image to get some information on the driver of this AMC Pacer-bodied modified. Our friend Steve Kennedy who at the time was the track’s official photographer had the following to say; “I think in the Pacer is Jack Susco. Probably the 1981 opener. Wish I'd gotten it in color... He ran a few laps that day that's all; I didn't even know he was there until he came out for his heat.  No practice.” Here at “RTT” we really appreciate the unique stuff, and a Pacer is certainly-that! (Steve Kennedy Collection).

Here’s one from our pal Dave Chapman, who’s lately been contributing some really-classic Waterford Speedbowl images. Seen here celebrating another win during has long & successful career at the shoreline oval is the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. It’s the early 1970s, and Bill was really-hot in this Rambler American-bodied entry. Really, it was quite the ride and representative of the seemingly always-unique machinery that was campaigned at the Speedbowl during that era. (Dave Chapman Collection).                   

It says “Bobby-?” on the roof, but the guy behind the controls of this neat coupe is longtime Speedbowl competitor, Bob Tetreault. Another image from the archives of Mr. Chapman, typical of the times Bob’s racer sported a nifty vintage body, stock frame, and probably 99% of the components used in its construction where products of good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity, rather than a fat-wallet. Sadly, modified racing has become prohibitively-expensive for many would-be competitors and has also forced many veteran teams out of the sport. It remains a truly-disturbing trend. (Dave Chapman Collection).   

A little slice of 70s-era Waterford Speedbowl action for your enjoyment! Seen here running in close-quarters is “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo #31, Blaine Belz #93, Ed Bunnell #318, and the late George “Moose” Hewitt #19. There’s a LOT of victories and championships represented in this shot. Then-as-now, Steve Kennedy who shot this from his spot in the infield was always great at capturing intense action shots. (Steve Kennedy Collection).                                          

It’s Tuesday evening August 30, 1977 at the Waterford Speedbowl, and the late, great Charlie Jarzombek has just captured the third event of that year’s traveling Yankee All Star League Series. A Long Island phenomenon, Charlie was absolutely one of the best in the business. Sadly, he lost his life in an accident at Martinsville, VA. during a modified event in March of 1987. Charlie is a member of both the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the Long Island Sports Hall of Fame. (Steve Kennedy Collection).  

Here’s a great coupe-era shot from Massachusettes’ Seekonk Speedway. The late Tex Barry was ultra-popular at the Bay State oval, winning many features at the ‘Konk during his long career. Ironically, he also passed-away at the track that was such a huge part of his life for so-long. A number of years-ago and following his retirement as a driver, Tex was cheering his son on to winning a Pro Stock feature at Seekonk. Just as his boy was passing the checkered flag for the win, Tex collapsed of a fatal heart attack. Talk about an ironic (and unfortunate) twist of fate…. (R.A. Silvia Collection).                                          

That's it for this week. Email me at:

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